A lawyer for one of three men accused of carrying out a violent takeover-style robbery at a California Nordstrom Rack department store made a startling accusation in opening arguments on Friday.
During the January 2013 robbery, one person was stabbed in the neck and another was sexually assaulted while the men held 14 people hostage for several hours in the Westchester store at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center.
Raymond Sherman Jr., Troy Hammock and Everett Allen have been charged in the crime.
An attorney for Sherman, a former employee of the Nordstrom location, however, said the robbery was part of a plan that was hatched with the help of a victim he is accused of raping.
Prosecutors kept the focus on surveillance video that showed the hours of terror hostages endured.
"What makes this case so terrifying is the manner in which they carried out the crime,” prosecutor Cynthia Barnes told jurors.
Barnes showed security camera video which captured three men storming into the employee exit as workers tried to leave for the night.
“They yelled at them, they pointed a gun at them, terrified them, threw them to the ground,” she said. “But they weren't done yet. They made each victim strip down to their underwear, and bras if they were women."
She showed video of the hostages being forced into one room during the four-hour standoff.
“And then they forced all 14 into the employee bathroom, made them face the wall, told them ‘You turn around you die, you look at me you die.’"
All three defendants face 14 counts of second degree robbery.
Everett Allen is also on trial for stabbing one of the employees who hid in a locker room to call her husband, who then called police.
Raymond Sherman is also charged with kidnapping and several counts of forcible rape, but in a twist, his attorney argued the rape victim was in on the crime.
"They planned to do a robbery at Nordstrom and there would be a sexual assault claim during the robbery and then (one of the women) would file a lawsuit against Nordstrom and the mall for millions of dollars and then split the proceeds with Sherman," defense attorney Arthur Lindars told jurors.
His attorney added that plan did not call for Sherman getting caught.
Witness testimony begins Monday.